Divide and Rule

Reacting to the news that the U.S. government has been supplying arms to the Palestinian Authority (so they can fight Hamas), the Armchair Generalist wonders “why is it that the Bush administration’s first answer to every regional conflict is to throw more weapons into the mix? You’d think that, by now, they’d have figured out that hard power doesn’t solve these long-term conflicts.”

I think they actually do understand this pretty well. After all, if the conflicts were “solved” that would reduce the need for American weapons, and htus reduce the opportunities for American influence. The essence of the approach is to create a series of standoffs where our proxies have the bulk of the guns, but their enemies of the bulk of the legitimacy (in part because they’re not serving as our proxy), and thus the guns-without-legitimacy side is able to maintain a permanently tenuous grasp on power that leaves them ever-more-dependent on external American support. The identity or background of the proxy doesn’t really matter, and can include ex-insurgents in Iraq, the same Fatah groups we were trying to freeze out of Palestinian politics a few years ago, Iranian-backed Shiite parties in Basra, sundry Somali factions, whatever.